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Tuesday Morning shuts down online business

Sarah Skidmore Sell, AP Business Writer

Tuesday Morning Corp. has dropped the "e'' from its commerce.

The Dallas-based closeout retailer quietly shut down its online shopping site last month in order to better focus on business for its more than 800 physical stores. The company said the nature of its business, which involves a constantly rotating array of housewares, clothing, luggage and more, is better suited for in-person shopping.

While it seems like an unlikely move in an increasingly online-focused world, some industry experts say it may be for the best.

"Everybody thinks they should have a Facebook page, they should have a Twitter handle, they should have a website - that is not entirely true," said Marshall Cohen, chief retail industry analyst with The NPD Group. "When a company is progressive enough to know that they are not good enough at it ... I give them kudos for getting out."

Tuesday Morning spokeswoman Jennifer Sanders said Wednesday that the company is making this move as part of its ongoing renewal. The company started selling items online last year, but still made 99 percent of its revenue in its stores.

The company is focused on reshaping itself under a new CEO, who took over in March. It also has been trying to rebound from several years of soft sales due to the impact of difficult economic times and tough competition.

Tuesday Morning, like many discount retailers, says the secret to their popularity is a "treasure hunt" atmosphere. Shoppers enjoy finding and seizing on unexpected deals, and experts say this kind of impulse purchase focus is hard to replicate online.

The company also faces tough competition from Overstock.com, Amazon, Ebay and online shopping club and flash sites that focus solely on online sales.

Tuesday Morning declined to say how much the e-commerce business cost, but experts say it is unlikely that it was profitable in such a short window of time. Online sites require a centralized location for inventory, site operators and manpower to handle the orders, returns and other customer service components.

Discount and closeout retailers also are coping with an unpredictable inventory that makes operating an online site more complex. This is part of the reason that these retailers among some of the last holdouts to sell items online.

Dollar General launched its e-commerce site in 2011. TJX Cos., which owns the T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and Homegoods chains, bought online retailer Sierra Trading Post last year as a means to expand its own e-commerce presence. It is still developing sites for its own brands and many competitors simply do not have them.

"This is all about focusing on your strengths and delivering," Cohen said. "Consumers love to be able to shop on impulse."